Scottish actor Jack Lowden won the Olivier Award for his harrowing portrayal of an ailing and anguished artist in Richard Eyre’s London revival of Ibsen’s GHOSTS. Initially staged at the Almeida in the Autumn of 2013, the production transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, concluding in March 2014. Jack played Oswald Alving opposite Lesley Manville (who also won the Olivier) as Helen,his widowed mother. He has inherited syphilis from his lecherous late father and as his heath deteriorates, returns home from living as a painter in Paris, where falls for the maid Regina, who turns out to be his philandering father’s illegitimate daughter.
The subject matter of religion, general disease, incest and euthanasia, “caused an explosion of outrage and critical venom,” said the director, when it was first staged in 1882 in the US. In his five-star review for the Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote, “Jack Lowden, big, shambolic and increasingly distraught as her bohemian artist son conveys the ugly, egotism of the chronically sick and the sheer terror of his terrible illness. The plays closing moments are almost too upsetting to watch.”
Jack is currently back on the London stage after enjoying his first major international onscreen success in the 2016 BBC miniseries WAR AND PEACE. He stars opposite Hayley Atwell in Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke’s final production as artistic director for the intimate Covent Garden venue. In a unique gender-reversal, Jack and Hayley alternate the roles of Angelo and Isabella during the play. Jack signed my sketch when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee.
‘Two Queens. One in power. One in prison. It’s all in the execution’ …and two exceptional actresses, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams.
After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Robert Icke’s new adaption of MARY STUART transferred for a limited run at the Duke of York’s in London’s West End. The political tragedy verse play by Friedrich Schiller, which premiered in 1800 depicts the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. Both Juliet and Lia played alternated the roles of the two Queens depending on who called heads or tails.
“Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson switch roles at the toss of a coin to play the warring queens in Robert Icke’s explosive production,” wrote Susannah Clapp in her five-star Guardian review. Both signed my drawing at the stage door before the run ended on Saturday.
After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Richard Icke’s acclaimed adaption of Shakespeare’s HAMLET transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in June with BAFTA and double Olivier-winner Andrew Scott as the Danish Prince.
In her five-star Guardian review, Kate Kellaway called the production “an all-consuming marvel. Andrew Scott’s prince proves a brilliant communicator.”
Andrew signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door.
The Nether – the future term for the internet, offers complete freedom – a new virtual wonderland providing total sensory immersion in a dystopian future. Los Angeles based dramatist Jennifer Haley’s award-winning play, directed by Jeremy Herrin, transferred to London’s Duke of York’s Theatre for a limited 12 week run after a sold out season at The Royal Court. Charles Spencer wrote his review for the Telegraph, “Stanley Townsend is memorably sinister and devious as the owner of the site… in this haunting and highly original modern fairy tale.”
Award winning Irish actor Stanley Townsend plays Sims, who in the guise of Poppa creates The Hideaway where “guests” can do unspeakable things to a 12 year old avatar named Iris. His acting credits include Whistle Blower, Heartbeat, Jonathan Creek, Ballykissangel, A Touch of Frost, The Bill, Ashes to Ashes and Ripper Street for TV and films In the Name of The Father, Happy Go Lucky and Killing Bono.
Included in The Nether’s four Olivier Award nominations was a Supporting Actress recognition for the four ‘young Iris’s’ – Isabella Pappas, Jaime Adler, Perdita Hibbins, Zoe Brough. Zoe left the production to take up her role as Blousey Brown in Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith, but I met the other three at the theatre where they along with Stanley signed my sketch.
Mike Bartlett’s audacious new play, King Charles III about the ascension of Prince Charles to the throne after Elizabeth II passes on, resulting in a constitutional crisis, royal family meltdown and ultimately a British coup. It is also a bold play, written as a Shakespearean piece in iambic pentameter. It made its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre, London in April 2014 before transferring to Wyndham’s in the West End until March this year.
Amongst the faultless cast assembled by director Rupert Goold are Olivier nominated Margot Leicester and singer/songwriter Katie Brayben.
Writing in The Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish stated, “the cast are uniformly excellent. There’s a 24 carat contribution from Margot Leicester as a funny, fawning but unmistakably feisty Camilla”. Katie plays the stalking, black veiled ghost of Princess Diana. She will soon be seen playing the legendary Carole King in the Broadway hit musical Beautiful at the Aldwych next month.
Both Katie and Margot signed their respective sketches at the stage door after a Saturday evening performance before Christmas.
Playwright Neil LaBute is haunted the American obsession with physical beauty. His 2008 play Reasons To Be Pretty was successfully revived in London at the Almeida Theatre in late 2011 with a cast including award-winning British actress Billie Piper. It examines our perception of beauty and asks whether it is as much of a curse to be conventionally attractive as it is to be considered ugly. It’s the final intstallment of his trilogy about society’s obsession with looks, following The Shape of Things which premiered at the Almeida in 2001, and Fat Pig which was a West End hit in 2008.
Billie, expecting her second child, played pregnant supermarket security guard Carly who is worried she may be losing the affections of her partner Kent who is besotted by a ‘stunner’ working in another part of the factory. The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer said that the play “…is blessed with a heart wrenching turn from the wonderful Billie Piper.”
LaBute has written a sequel Reasons To Be Happy which premiered in June 2013 at the MCC Theatre in New York.
Billie has just completed the premiere season of Richard Bean’s latest satire Great Britain to rave reviews at the National before it transferred to the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket with Lucy Punch replacing Billie in the lead role.
Mike Barlett’s audacious new play King Charles III had its World Premiere at London’s Almeida Theatre in April this year (2014). It transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End last week.
Helmed by Almeida’s Artistic Director Rupert Goold, it featured veteran actor Tim Pigott-Smith as Prince Charles who ascends the throne after his mother dies. The play centres on the pressures and purposes of the monarchy today.
It’s the first major play written in blank verse that the West End has seen for a very long time. The playwright wrote in iambic pentameter (the meter used by the Bard when writing verse, having ten syllables in each line – five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables) because he wanted the play to be a Shakespearean drama; a family epic in five acts, complete with a ghost and a comic subplot.
The smash hit received glowing reviews. The Telegraph states, “attendance is compulsory”. Michael Billington said “Tim Pigott-Smith gives the performance of his distinguished career”. Its original three month booking has been extended already.
British actress Amanda Drew is equally at home in a drama or a comedy or for that matter, on stage or on screen. She’s been seen on the small screen in all the major UK TV shows and is a regular on the London boards. Amanda was playing Judy in Nationals THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME at the Apollo, until the roof collapsed last December. The play will resume in the Gielgud next door from 24 June. I drew Amanda playing the sultry Joy in Jez Butterworth’s PARLOUR SONG at the Almeida Theatre in March 2009. She featured opposite Andrew Lincoln in a story where martial bliss turns into domestic boredom, then a mix of paranoid fantasy, surreal nightmares and dreams of escape follow! Amanda is always very nice to meet and have a chat. She did so on her way into the Duchess theatre in late summer, 2011 for a matinee performance of BUTLEY, signing the sketch in the process.